MILWAUKEE — As the nation celebrates the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., organizations locally are using the day of service to spread his message of peace and unity, including the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee at its 25th Annual MLK Day Celebration.
“We have to change. As a kid, I want to be in a good community, but what does that look like, how can we take care of ourselves and others,” said James Kelly, Jr., elementary school level Spoken Word contest winner.
In its 25th year, the annual event was held virtually again this year due to the pandemic. However, organizers used the distance to their advantage, getting perspectives from a number of voices in the community, in their hope of fostering connection and understanding.
“Our ambition is to create safe and welcoming spaces, which truly celebrate diversity. Our staff and volunteers reflect the richness of the communities we serve, and are culturally competent, because representation matters,” said Carrie Wall, President and CEO, YMCA Metropolitan Milwaukee.
Leaders, like Gov. Tony Evers and Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson, highlighted Dr. King’s mission of eliminating injustice and just how far we have left to go to make that happen.
“You can combat systemic inequities, advance racial justice and build the sort of future we all want to see for our state. One that is more just or equitable, and where every family and every kid can thrive,” said Evers.
“We must set our minds and our hearts to reach the goal of the community. Let us reflect on our emotions and on our spirit. Through our nonviolent actions, we are the living legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,” said Johnson.
And that legacy lives on, in the hands of some of our community’s next generation.
“It's all about change so the world can be a better place. We can have a healthy community. How? With me, you and you? We should honor what Dr. King wanted to have, a beloved community. Change your souls, change your lives,” said Kelly, Jr.
In that spirit, the Y is also hosting a week-long Deliberate Dialogues panel series, in what the organization calls its efforts to live up to its Social Responsibility pillar by honoring the life and work of the late civil rights icon.